October 1, 2013 at 8:11 pm #614MikeKeymaster
Monday, November 29, 2004
More than 120 whales, dolphins die after beaching in Australia
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – More than 120 whales and dolphins died
after swimming onto beaches on two southern Australian islands, where
rescue teams were desperately trying Monday to prevent others
Ninety-seven animals – 72 pilot whales and 25 bottlenose dolphins –
died after beaching Sunday on King Island between the Australian
mainland and the southeast island state of Tasmania, state government
environment spokesman Warwick Brennan said.
On Maria Island, 450 kilometers (280 miles) away, about 25 dead pilot
whales were beached, whale rescue expert Shane Hunniford told The
Associated Press by telephone.
Two dozen more were stranded on the island but appeared to
be “reasonably fit and healthy,” he said.
More than 30 rescuers dragged eight whales – each about four meters
(13 feet) long and weighing one ton – into deep water by late
“We’re basically sliding tarps underneath the whales and lifting and
dragging them out into deep water,” Hunniford said.
Asked about the prospect of all survivors being saved he said, “We’re
just seeing how we go one at a time.”
Authorities are also concerned that bottlenose dolphins swimming in
the same bay will also beach themselves unless boats can separate
them from the shore.
On King Island, whale and dolphin carcasses were strewn over several
hundred meters (yards) of a remote beach in Sea Elephant Bay, Brennan
“It is quite grim,” Brennan said Monday describing the scene.
“You’ve got a large number of spectacular animals that are dead …
There are some baby whales as well, so it’s not a pleasant sight.”
Wildlife officers have worked side by side with local volunteers to
rescue the mammals.
Marine biologists will take samples from the dead whales and examine
weather patterns in a bid to explain the tragic phenomenon.
“Strandings are always a mystery; we’ll see if we can find something
that can shed some light on it,” Brennan said.
The beachings come a year after 110 pilot whales and 10 bottlenose
dolphins died when they were stranded on Tasmania’s remote west
Scientists at the time said a predator, such as a killer whale, may
have driven the animals to their deaths.
Strandings of whales and dolphins on Australia’s beaches are not rare
but mass strandings are.
University of Tasmania whale researcher Mark Hindell – who has
studied beachings for more than 80 years – said cyclic climatic
events that bring cold water and nutrients from Antarctica closer to
the Australian coast may be responsible.
“(The latest beachings) certainly fit with the pattern that we’ve
seen … that every 10 to 14 years we get a peak in the number of
animals that strand,” Hindell told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
radio. – AP
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